Crime

Utah hiker tries lighting spider on fire, sets forest ablaze

A Utah man who took a lighter to a spider and ignited a forest has been arrested.

Police called it a random decision with no known motive when hiker Cory Allan Martin, 26, of Draper, Utah, caught sight of the arachnid on Monday afternoon and tried to light it. He did that and then some, sparking the 60-acre Springville wildfire, police said. Authorities were flummoxed.

“What led him to stop and notice a spider and decide to try to burn it, we don’t know,” Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. “There may not be a why. He might not even know why.”

Springville fire officials received reports of a fire “north of town on the mountainside” just before 5 p.m. Monday, Springville fire officials told KSL-TV. They and Utah County sheriff’s deputies responded and found the fire, and Martin, on the mountain. He told them what had happened.

“When he attempted to burn the spider, the surrounding brush ignited and the fire began spreading very rapidly,” stated an affidavit obtained by KSL.

The fire raced up the mountain but did not engulf more than one square mile and didn’t damage any homes, fire officials said. Several agencies responded, and by Tuesday afternoon the blaze had been 90% contained, KSL reported.

Deputies later found a jar of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Martin’s belongings, and he was arrested on suspicion of reckless burn and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Martin was booked into the Utah County jail on Tuesday, on about $2,000 bail.

Cannon cautioned that it doesn’t take much to start a fire in the tinder-dry brush during a drought.

“We know that sparks from dragging tow chains or sparks shot out of a muffler on an ATV or something like that can cause these, so currently, a tiny little flame can create something to grow to create the problem we are having down there right now,” Cannon told KSL.

However, Martin’s method was a first.

“A fire to start by someone because somebody was trying to burn a spider with a lighter,” Cannon told KSL. “That might top the list of unusual fire starts.”

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